Gene Stoltzfus, 69, the founding director of Christian Peacemaker Teams, which inspired thousands to personally resist violence and support peaceful alternatives, died March 10 of a heart attack while bicycling in Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada. Stoltzfus, a Mennonite, served as CPT director from its inception in 1988 until 2004. He went to Iraq just before the Gulf War in 1991.
Tom Fox, 54, a peace activist and a member of Langley Hill Friends Meeting in McLean, Virginia, was kidnapped in Iraq in November 2005 along with three other members of Christian Peacemaker Teams—Norman Kember, 74, of Britain; and James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, both of Canada.
While visiting friends in east Texas my wife saw a message on the sign of the Assemblies of God church in which she had grown up. It declared, “The Bible Says the Land Belongs to Israel.” This was during the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005.
If, as Tertullian taught, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, in a liberal society church growth has to find its inspiration elsewhere. Western society was built partly on the premise that people shouldn’t have to suffer for their faith. That’s why talk of martyrdom often seems exotic or irrelevant in churches in the U.S.
Church leaders in many parts of the world, including General Secretary Samuel Kobia of the World Council of Churches, expressed relief and joy at the freeing of three members of Christian Peacemaker Teams held hostage in Iraq.
In a scene that has been repeatedly played since Operation Enduring Freedom commenced in Afghanistan four years ago, Michelle Naar-Obed left her home in December for a tour of duty. She knew, as did her husband, her 11-year-old daughter and her friends in Duluth, Minnesota, that she might never return.
Nearly four months before the publication of photos of Iraqi detainees abused by their coalition captors, a small Christian peace organization issued a report detailing incidents similar to those now sparking outcries from North America to the Middle East.
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